Thing of the Year 2019

LJ'S THING OF THE YEAR: Ego Death & Kyrie 

The other day I was on the phone with a friend, talking about nothing relevant or interesting, and I said, “A year ago I was having an anorexia relapse, today I’m a fucking CrossFitter”— I don’t think there’s any better way to explain what a moving, wondrous year this has been.

On paper, I didn’t do a whole lot— in 2019, I took a breather from my usual preoccupation with work and career advancement, instead prioritizing the maintenance of a solid work/life balance, focusing on practical introspection and self-mastery.

Today, I feel settled inside myself for the very first time, like there is no disconnect between my brain, body and heart; they all move together easily, as one unit, and co-operate. Your body is a picture of your brain, I wrote late this summer, around the time when I started CrossFit, and by late December, I understand this better than I could have then. Every day I feel like a warrior, but am in no way compelled by the violence with which I’ve gotten used to inhabiting a body. What I like about you is that you’re not afraid to slow things down, one of the coaches at my gym told me, and I thought, “This is the first time in my life that sentence could have been true about me.” Time is our life to live inside, and this year, I used it wisely. 


The first four months of my year were basically bullshit. In March, the restaurant I’d been managing for a year closed down. That job had been my everything, and I struggled to define myself without it. Life snuck memorably sweet moments into that otherwise uncomfortable chunk of time— in January, in Los Angeles, I lounged in the sunshine with Liz’s roommate’s dog Josko, content in the knowledge that I had evaded Toronto’s worst snowstorm of the year. At work, Maggie and I cultivated a deranged obsession with the dead blues singer Fats Domino, and entertained ourselves by poring over our restaurant’s menu, speculating as to what Fats might order, giggling to death. Drinking golden-Oreo-flavoured, Meunier-driven Champagne in Portland with Laura at a staggeringly uncool patisserie that boasted one of the world’s best Champagne lists, page after page tucked into laminate sleeves, presented in an ugly plastic binder. The whole place seemed like something that could exist only in a dream. 


The summer was golden and glistening. Every morning I lay in my backyard for an entire hour, wearing a swimsuit, suntanning and listening to dub records on my phone. My bartender complained about the heat, and I said “Well, why don’t you just move into an igloo in the middle of an ice rink?” and then laughed so hard at my own insane joke. The Raptors won the NBA Finals, and we processed Kawhi’s leaving using dating/relationship metaphors, which were funny, and soothing.


In 2019 I learned to respect my own boundaries, perhaps ruthlessly so. I felt freed from the pressure I’ve always put on myself to maintain friendships I’m disinterested in out of fear of karmic repercussions; I was, I’m afraid, a terrible friend this year. An unstable and incoherent texter-backer, deprioritizing my relationships to spend my time talking to my typewriter, and lifting heavy weights. A month or so ago, I drank three bottles of wine with a new friend and, over the course of doing so, remembered how to write, or rather, why to write. The next morning, I started writing, and haven’t stopped since. I couldn’t imagine anything making me happier than this: re-learning to write because I love it, not because I feel obliged.


On the morning of Christmas Eve, I did a workout at my gym. It was: one hundred weighted squats, fifty sit-ups, one hundred lunges, fifty push-ups, and one hundred kettlebell swings, each movement broken up by a set of single-unders, which is what we call skips, with a skipping rope. We were each allotted thirty minutes to complete the workout; this is the kind of thing I love best. Unbound by time, with no coach calling out Stop or Go, you are competing against nothing, no one, barely even yourself. Time, in these moments, disappears, and so do you: your own name, personality, relationships, family, holidays, work, anxiety, problems, everything. It’s all gone. You’re not Laura, you’re not a writer, nor a somm, just a heaving, sweating mass of cells, chanting numbers. “That was real Ego Death!” I realized later, delighted to have found it: “I’m a Lama, on a hill.” 

PS: Also this year I met the love my life, NBA basketball player Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets: 

PPS: I have literally never met him

Happy New Year & all the best vibes from Laura & Kyrie XOXOXOXOXO

LIZ'S THING OF THE YEAR: Dan Tana's linguini

-leaving Echo Park

-Brad Pitt pushing the luggage down the hallway at LAX

-the cheerleader-y gang-vocal part of "Wet" by Bibi Bourelly where all the girls shout GO THE FUCK OFF IF YOU'RE GONNA BE RICH ONE DAY

-here's a playlist of all my favorite songs that came out this year. It's mostly people I worked for

-eating linguini at Dan Tana's with my fave

-meeting Noel Gallagher  

-a roadside restaurant on the drive back from Georgia O'Keeffe's house where I ordered Frito pie and the waitress asked "Red chilis, green chilis, or Christmas?"

-Renée Elise Goldsberry's performance of Dee Dee in Original Cast Album: Co-Op

-all the bad skin in Her Smell

-"I wouldn't expect too much from that cat" 

-Las Vegas

-a note in my Notes app that says:

Bonnie Raitt
antique wooden cribbage deck
woven-plastic chaise lounge poolside
gypsy skirt + Clash t-shirt
nest hair
shrimp cocktail

-when Lana set off fireworks at the end of "Venice Beach" at the Bowl 

-the part in the "Summer Girl" video when Danielle sings into the New Beverly ticket booth microphone <3 <3 <3

JEN'S THING OF THE YEAR: Moomins, John Wick 3, etc.


Whip-Smart by Liz Phair is My Favorite Merry-Go-Round


A little while ago I found this absolute goldmine of a Geocities site, and read through 37 magazine/newspaper articles written about Liz Phair in the mid-'90s. I learned that Whip-Smart was nearly titled Jump Rope Songs, and that Liz quit smoking in part by eating green apples all the time. I found a thing where she talks about her first kiss ("In freshman year, I had to French-kiss, and it was totally disgusting. It took me a weekend to get over it"), and some dirt about going to summer camp with Julia Roberts ("She was tall and bossy and fun....We stopped speaking because she was always calling me collect, and it pissed me off. I'm like, 'What are you fucking calling me collect for? Your parents are rich enough'"). And I read beautiful Liz quotes like this one, from LA Weekly in '93: "I got exiled from the indie crowd because I have a lot of mainstream trappings, a lot of obnoxious tendencies for the sake of reacting against indieness, embracing Diet Coke and beaches and convertibles."

Another good thing I came across was this little bit from a Chicago Tribune article published right after Whip-Smart was released: 

The songs on Exile and Whip-Smart rarely embrace one emotion, their "raw honesty" seldom can be distilled into bumper-sticker platitudes. Instead, the overall mood is one of ambivalence and irresolution, each song like one view from a merry-go-round, the perspective ever-changing. 

I agree about Liz Phair being a person of emotional depth and complexity, but what I love most is the idea of Whip-Smart being a merry-go-round. I'm picturing some grandiose carousel, with lighted mirrors and oil paintings and a chariot, and the detailing on every horse's mane is like the baroque curlicues of some extravagantly frosted birthday cake. Whip-Smart is a very ornate album, with lots of goodies and treasures and prizes packed inside; I think you could listen forever and still keep noticing some little hidden gem you hadn't picked up on before. Here is everything I love about it right now:

i. CHOPSTICKS. "Chopsticks" is 110 words long and it's got more drama and intrigue than basically any novel I read this year. The part I want to zoom in on here is when she sings "It was 4 a.m. and the light was gray, like it always is in paperbacks." So much of why I love Whip-Smart has to do with light quality, with the way it lights up the inside of your brain. The light in "Chopsticks" is drab but for most of the album it's so bright and shiny; it even has the words "shiny old bauble."

A while back I had an idea about writing some big thing about the qualities of light I associate with my favorite music. Stuff like: "Murmur by R.E.M. sounds like golden-hour sunlight filtered through a jar of honey left on the windowsill of some rickety old house in the country, on a blessedly non-humid day in late August." But with Whip-Smart it would be hard to land on just one type of light. Sometimes the songs sound like spelling out your name with a burning sparkler, sometimes they're twinkle lights on a Christmas tree long after Christmas is over, sometimes they're the shine of a girl's lips when she's just put lipgloss on. Exile in Guyville sounds like a very dark room almost all the way through, but Whip-Smart feels like every type of light you could imagine, and that's why I love it best.

ii. SUPERNOVA. Freshman year of college my best friend was a poet and mostly listened to suburban-poet-girl music, like [REDACTED]*. My friend had attitude about Liz Phair; I remember her telling me the line "Your lips are sweet and slippery like a cherub's bare wet ass" was uncouth. When you're 17 and your best friend doesn't love the same songs as you, it makes you defensive, you want to prove you're right. Now that I'm way older than 17 I know for certain that Liz Phair is a supreme poet, with her lyrics about playing jacks and gilded grass, Beatle boots and platform shoes, Alice falling down the rabbit hole, Rapunzel as a boy, lions and tigers and panthers and snakes. Liz Phair changed my head about what you're allowed to make poems about, and the answer is: anything that fascinates you. Also I like poems best when they're about the physical experience of being alive.